White Rock pitcher was in a medically induced coma at one point last summer after contracting legionnaires’ diseaseMonday marked a milestone for women’s softball in this country, and there was maybe an even extra appeal for Sara Groenewegen.The official pool draw was unveiled for the 12-team Americas Qualification tournament for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games that will be hosted by Softball City from Aug. 25 to Sept. 1. Team Canada held a media event at the four-field complex in South Surrey and Groenewegen, 24, a right-hander from White Rock, was among the prospective Team Canada players on hand.The fact she’s a part of Canada trying to grab one of the two berths to Tokyo out of this Americas tournament is remarkable.Consider that Groenewegen was in a medically induced coma in July for 10 days after contracting legionnaires’ disease, which is often described as a severe form of pneumonia. According to a U.S.-based Center For Disease Control website, 10 per cent of all people who get legionnaires’ disease die due to complications from the illness.Groenewegen said the doctors aren’t sure what the prompted the legionnaires’ disease. She said it came from a virus and that her immune system may have been compromised last summer, since she’s a diabetic and she was having problems with her insulin pump for a time.She became sick during the Canada Cup, the tournament that runs every summer at Softball City. She thought initially that she’d be able to catch up with the national team at the world championships in Japan last August, but says with a smile now, “it didn’t end up being that way.”
Team Canada’s Sara Groenewegen winds up to deliver a pitch against Mexico during a July 2015 game at Softball City in Surrey.
Ric Ernst /
“I learned a lot from it,” Groenewegen said of last summer. “I learned that I didn’t want to give softball up and that I wanted to play for an Olympic-level team. I tried my best and here I am.“It was a struggle. I couldn’t walk the whole month of August. I was back training with the team Sept. 15. I obviously had to take it slow at first and my team was very accommodating with that.”Softball was voted back into the Olympics for Tokyo. There’s no guarantee currently on the Olympic schedule after that. The sport had been part of four straight Olympics, ending with the Beijing 2008 Games.Groenewegen made her senior national team debut in 2013, one year after that first non-softball Olympics, the London 2012 Games. She’s at that exact right age to be so passionate about this.“It’s constant anxiety,” she said. “What if you don’t come top two?“This tournament will be what you base your upcoming life’s decisions on. If you make it or don’t, your life is going to be turned around. It’s constant anxiety, like I said. But we are more than ready. This team is more prepared than any team I’ve been a part of.”
Sara Groenewegen on the mound for Team Canada. Groenewegen contracted legionnaires’ disease last summer, and was in a medically induced coma for 10 days.
Canada is heavily favoured to get through the Americas, especially with the U.S. having already qualified for Tokyo on the strength of winning the worlds last summer. Japan is in as host team. It lost to the U.S. in the world final. Canada came in third.Canada is in a pool at the Americas with Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Cuba, Guatemala and Argentina. The other side of the draw features Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Peru, the British Virgin Islands and the Dominican Republic.There will be still be a Canada Cup tournament as well, running from July 5 to 14, so Team Canada will get a little extra time at the facility.“I believe it is a compliment,” longtime Canada Cup lead organizer Greg Timm said of hosting the Americas. “We got heavily outbid in terms of financials. I think our host organizing committee has a reputation here. We do what we say we’re going to do.“We’re proud of what we’ve done here in the past that the world organization will give us the nod for something like this.”email@example.com/SteveEwen CLICK HERE to report a typo. Is there more to this story? We’d like to hear from you about this or any other stories you think we should know about. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.